Crowdsourcing And The Oil Spill Mess

As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is seemingly continuing unabated, there’s a timely piece at Blogging Innovation on how crowdsourcing (of one type or another) might provide a breakthrough. The infographic above gives a comprehensive and vivid overview of the situation.

The pros of the approach are offered as:

  • Diversity of ideas increases the odds of finding something that will be useful
  • While no one idea may solve it, visibility (as opposed to private phone calls) increases the odds of finding parts of ideas that lead to viable solutions
  • The brain power of enthusiastic participants across the globe is a good match to BP’s in-house experts
  • Potentially a good PR move, as the company demonstrates that it’s leaving no stone unturned to solve the leak

and the cons discussed are

  1. Little previous experience with crowdsourcing
  2. Deep technical domain experience is required
  3. Site becomes a place for public criticism

Obviously BP has extensive academic and industry networks to tap into, both formal and informal. The question is whether a wider group of suggestions, including those from innovative small businesses, would be helpful in a crisis and time-critical situation. Helpful can mean technically and PR wise (the latter being notoriously fickle of course).

After the situation is under control, a wide-ranging ‘lessons identified and learnt’ activity will certainly take place (as well as the more vicious blame game). There are many posts on this blog on the challenge of actually learning lessons and benefiting from mistakes (just do a search). It’s certainly not easy!

However one interesting output might be that innovative means for developing fast and relevant responses to tricky problems from the widest set of communities is investigated and trialled, say with a mock crisis. This might then lay the foundations for an effective crowdsourcing type of approach in the future.

In parallel with this, there’s another post on crowdsourcing the oil spill here. This focuses on providing information and practical ways that people in the area can help.

There is useful information from BP on the oil spill issue here.

Let’s hope it’s sorted soon.

Picture credit: here.


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